Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Have a wonderful long weekend, all my American friends and family. Make sure to enjoy some kind of baked good for me! Note: I do enjoy pumpkin.

I'm going to take a few days off to decompress from the rather busy turn my life has taken lately - and try to prepare for Xmas while I'm at it.

See you next week. xo

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

November Blues

Right about now, I could really handle a lounge by this pool. My friends in SoCal - you are lucky indeed.

Photo courtesy of Studio G

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Top of Mind

Disclaimer: This new cowl top took a zillion hours and 2 full tries to to come together. Yes, I spent an extra 25 bucks on emergency cab fare to go spend another 15 bucks on fabric, resulting in my free pattern top costing approximately $60.00 when you factor in the tax.

Oh, and then there's the 20 hours of my life I'm never getting back - not to mention at least 5 hours of Scott's life.

Seriously, 3/4 of the way through this project, we started laughing compulsively because we couldn't fathom how any human being could do this for a living. It's SO FUCKING HARD - so unyieldingly brain-hurting every step of the way. I mean, we like to think we're pretty smart and we were jelly.

The pattern was free, and I think its lines are beautiful, so I guess I shouldn't complain about how mediocre the guide was. Note to reader: When instructions say "Skill required: Back neck facing", pay attention. And if you don't know what that is but how bad could it be, presume the answer is: pretty fucking bad.

The garment sports a shallow cowl, as you can see, and the fabric is gorgeous - a bitch to maneuver, but so solid and yet with give. All the shots below make it seem black, but it's a deep navy blue. I tried to overexpose a bit so that, despite the mid afternoon dusk, you can still make out some of the details. I've left the sleeves unfinished (knit doesn't fray and the lines were cut clean by a rotary blade) for a bit of interest.

(Oh, who am I kidding, I just didn't have it in me to hem them. Which takes nothing away from the fact that it works nonetheless.)

Please say nice things to keep me from completely giving up on this insanely challenging pursuit.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


I am so tired of being told that I can fix everything. It makes me feel like I am able to control - like I should control - every element of my existence. As a card-carrying control-freak, this is fuel to the flame. I'm sick of the media, of my community, of my own thought-patterns holding me hostage to unrealistic expectation.

No doubt, there are some things that, depite effort, some (though not all) people cannot control some (if not all) of the time. Among these: weight, appetite, fertility, socioeconomic status, body shape, job satisfaction, health, luck, sexual preference (I mean what you like, not whom)- and the list goes on.

I know it's not a popular modern concept to suggest that you may never be able to afford that yacht (or modest house in the neighbourhood of your choice). That you may never have a child, despite it being your greatest goal. That you may face frightening illness someday. That you might be the person with the metabolism that just will not let go of that final 20 pounds.

It's heavy, I realize. But I going somewhere with this.

In the face of all the things you can't necessarily control, there is one thing you can nab everytime. It's as simple as addition and as elegant as complex geometry.

You can dress like a movie star, trust me - in 99% of circumstances (I know there's always an exception) - even if you are low on funds, 20 pounds above your desired weight, saddened by life's challenges, hateful of your workplace, confused because (no matter how hard you try) your abs are still not rock hard etc.

Here's what you do:

Wear the right size.
  • Take your measurements. I know, it's like heresy, but embrace the fear and do it anyway. What you will learn is that each of your various body parts has a certain circumference, measured in inches or centimetres. It's not rocket science. And it's not that scary when you consider that the numbers are simply a means of determining the right size of clothing to purchase or to make or have made.
  • Take a tape measure shopping with you. You don't have to look like a freak in the showroom. Bring some stuff that should fit into the change room and measure while you test for stretch (which will impact the measurement somewhat unknowably). Then try it on. If everything you grabbed was too small (or big), because you're basing your choices on some imaginary mental image of your shape, no problem. Go a size up or down and try again.
  • Make sure anything you buy is returnable. Show your new wares to a really well-dressed friend and ask him or her to give you an honest opinion of fit (not style). If you get a polite but negative response, take the goods in question back to the store and try yet another size - or forgo the item altogether if it's just not cut right for you.
Wear Good Fabric.
  • This is where having tons of cash helps, though isn't a prerequisite. Understand that if you don't have money you need either a really good eye or a lot of time and probably a combo of both. Looking good takes time. You know that already. I mean, to point 1 above, you'll probably spend 2 hours in one store searching on fit - on numerous occasions. So what's a few days hunting down the right fit at a price you can afford. Note: As many will advise, thrifting and vintage will be your ticket to good fabric at the right price. If you don't like pre-owned, you'll have to get lucky or save your bucks. Or you could learn to sew. But that's a long-term strategy. Seriously.
  • Good fabric has nice drape predicated on gauge and its suitability for the garment it's been used to make. In general, medium-weight, slightly stretchy fabrics skim many bodies attractively. They can be synthetic, natural or a mix of both. I suggest you hang out at a fabric store one afternoon and walk around feeling the bolts. Or you can touch everything, everywhere. That's what I do. No piece at Club Monaco/Holt Renfrew/Ca Va de Soi escapes my touch. If you think the fabric looks dicey, it probably does.
Suit your shape.
  • If you don't really "get" your proportions, it's a mere accident when you find something that looks right. Of course, paying attention to that first, accidental item is key to locating other - and similar - shapes that fit on purpose. You can read a lot of style books that will tell you if you have a short waist or relatively long arms. Or you could try on a zillion styles and learn what works as you go along. Once your eye acclimates, you'll know exactly what to pick up (and what to leave) every time.
  • You are a fingerprint. No other person, save maybe your mother or sister, will have anywhere near the same shape and proportions as you. The way weight settles on you is bound to be different than the way it settles on me. We can share the same body measurements and still not suit the same items. The combination of shape and drape with your frame is utterly unique. That's why you have to keep trying stuff on in order to know what works.
Be comfortable in your body.
  • This is the substance of whole decades of psychotherapy for some, but this basic rule applies: To change your attitude about your body you need to change your brain chemistry. You can do that with drugs or exercise or sex other mood altering behaviours. Find one that works.
  • Not to harp, but yoga is particularly useful in achieving this goal. Many studies show that people who do yoga experience greater body awareness which leads to the adoption of habits that make them healthier in the long run. Yoga's main influence is on the endocrine system - neurotransmitters and hormones. When those are in balance, one is grounded emotionally and body shape and skin tone are optimal. The action of asana (poses) is to stabilize the skeleton and lengthen muscles. This reinforces symmetry - a healthful quality that greatly assists in the elegant wearing of clothing.
  • If you don't feel it, neither will we. The basis of attractiveness is recognizing what you bring to the table. Which is, in itself, based on gratitude. You may not possess Elle MacPherson's body - but the one you have enjoys the pleasures of this life. It mobilizes you and it heals you when you're sick - not to mention it's the image you project. Regular and organized movement will make you aware of your body's awesome achievements. Be confident and you will look confident. Which is always attractive.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Try This On For Size

You don't need to be a fashion designer or a seamstress to know that modern sizing is based on the whim of winged fairies, aka marketers.

Time was (in the era of standard clothes sizing) all number sizes approximated a specific measurement. That's to say, if you were a standard US size 8, your bust measurement was 35 inches and your waist measurement 26.5 etc. These days, at the Gap, a size 8 will fit a bust size of 40 and a waist of 31. (By the way, that's merely an estimation because every freakin' size 8 thing at the Gap fits differently.)

Catalog, or vanity, sizing - is the way to encourage sales by inflating self-worth based on relatively meaningless numbers.

Now don't get me wrong. The numbers are very meaningful as they relate to what size item one wears to be perfectly attired. They just don't correspond very accurately with your value as a human being or degree of attractiveness. Which in no way undercuts their evil power. Because, I don't know about you, but as those numbers diminish, my perceived gorgeousness goes through the roof.

Let me be the first to say I love the "catalog approach". I mean, it's a psychological gold star - projection par excellence! Recently, as everyone on the planet knows, I started to sew. On purchasing my first pattern, I was mildly horrified (though I knew to expect it, from years of reading and because I buy vintage) that my measurements accord with a size 6 numbers larger than my "regular" one.

Admittedly, I'm not convinced that the pattern in question uses standard measurement either. I mean, I have another pattern for which my measurements accord with a mere 4-number increase. Go figure.

You know I made my first skirt recently. (I promise, I will do a photo post, I've just been feeling so hideous and burned out lately that I can't bear to put on a smile and pretend I'm cute.) At any rate, I made the skirt and it fits really nicely, much as any nicely fitting piece would fit, and I don't really give a shit - after the fact - that it's a modified size 12.

The thing about clothes that fit perfectly is that they fit perfectly. They make you look good because they're doing what they're designed to do - to enhance the human shape that happens to house your consciousness.

Let's do a little quiz: What's the difference between a size 6 and a size 12 (or 18 etc.)?

Answer: Some inches of fabric.

Yeah, that's about it. Crazy, huh?

In the Victorian era, when your tailor made you a dress (you were rich, right?), it didn't have a tag. It wasn't necessary. Your garment was made to size. Your size. You didn't need to pick it up off a hanger in a shop. The seamstress used the adequate amount of fabric to produce the desired shape. That's why we should all know how to sew - to interpret fabric. Or have people who do, at very least.

When the required inches of fabric are there, your clothing glides over you like a butter. When they're not, you look like a sausage pretending to be a spear of asparagus (which goes nicely with the butter, but still). And that's even if you are a spear! Conversely, you may also look like a paper bag. Note to reader: holiday cooking will commence shortly.

I'm not going to sit here and pretend I don't believe that some people aren't infinitely more physically attractive than others. I'm not even going to posit that everyone has an equally nice clothes frame (and I'm not talking about fat vs thin. I'm talking about dimension, skin texture, tone, strength, symmetry - these come at a size 20 as well as a 2). Lord knows, the genes that cursed you with crappy hair might have blessed you with great tits. Some things are not in your control.

I am going to tell you, categorically, that if you don't look as good in your clothes as you want to (and as you can), the reasons are more than likely these:
  1. You are wearing the wrong size - either too big or too small.
  2. You are wearing unlovely fabric (something that doesn't drape well / sit nicely, probably because it is badly constructed or cheap).
  3. You are wearing a shape that is not compatible with your shape. And let's face it, your shape wins.
  4. You are not comfortable in your skin.
At the risk of having put you to sleep with this volume of text, I'll leave it till my next post to share some pragmatic solutions to resolve these ubiquitous challenges.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


How adorable is this:
Photo courtesy of Apartment Therapy

Seasonal cookies to remind you that you should be exercising instead.

(And they need some homemade workout wear!)

Anyone know where you can find these?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pillow Talk

On the weekend, M and I went to The Workroom to learn about sewing essentials. The owner, Karyn, also our teacher, has a lovely craft blog that may interest you...

We made these pillows:

M's Pillow: West Highland Whities or White Scotties - as we like to call them.

Mine is done in this pretty china blue upholstery fabric.

Not a bad effort, yes?

I'm particularly proud of M's accomplishment. She's only 9 years old!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cowl Neck Top

Y'all know how impossible it is to come up with a pithy pun about cowl necks? Go on, think about it for a few minutes... I'll wait.

This post, in addition to making you think, provides a sassy cowl neck top pattern by Hot Patterns. (Via my exhautive online research, it appears to be offered for free!) And it's apparently not entirely impossible to construct. That is open to interpretation, be warned.

As it happens, I've asked for some Hot Patterns for Xmas. This vendor offers modern designs (based on designer patterns in some instances) produced on strong, reusable pattern-paper. The company is family-run - always a plus in my books.

I never thought I'd become the kind of blogger who notifies readers about free sewing patterns, but there you go. And for those of you who fear that I've become some crazy sewing lady, only to blog about patterns evermore, I promise that is not the case. As always, I give equal love to all the arts - and will continue to promote them as cool things pop up.

PS: Thanks to the talented Mardel for giving me the sewing scoop (ha!) on Hot Patterns.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Some of you know we've been dealing with a fairly scary-ass (generic-style) parenting experience: nits and lice. I am loathe to type those words, but I feel the need to explode the myth. Plus, I need to vent. And then brag.

In brief, urban schools are rife with the problem. I mean, when I was growing up, no one had it. But now it goes around and around and it's very stressful, if ubiquitous. M managed to avoid it for 9 years. Since the summer, she's come down with it twice. The first time she caught it at camp. That episode was resolved reasonably quickly by the Lice Squad (no joke, keep this number on hand - best $250.00 I ever spent). The second time, recently, has been more difficult to quash. Not only was the case more advanced by the time we discovered it, but M's very silky, long and fine (yet plentiful) hair is extremely challenging to comb effectively. And then there's the fact that her hair is the same colour as nit casings (ooh, nice!). We've gone up and down, investing dozens of hours (a couple every other day) for the last month. And while we're sure the problem is licked, every second time she's checked (just to make it interesting), they find some kind of empty nit casing.

Pls. note: The vast likelihood is that it is simply a remnant of the problem we killed a month ago. And yet, every time they find anything of any description, we're back to square one on the "treatment" and hours of cleaning and worrying. Not to mention the mean (if prudent) isolation of our little kid.

Well, a couple of day's ago, on the heels of another nit-sighting, I lost it. I decided, unilaterally, unquestionably, we were cutting the hair off - and getting it coloured. Note: Less hair means less combing (if it manages to be inevitable) and nits can't really land in colour-processed hair - which is why mothers get them so rarely and daycare workers all have nice dye-jobs.

Before you suggest - as my mother did - that a) it won't necessarily resolve the problem and b) it will traumatize the child and c) only crazy Hollywood people have the hair of their children of single-digit age dyed - you live through a month of working 9 hour days, commuting, getting home, doing homework while making dinner, combing out hair of frustrated and tired child under fluorescent lives of kitchen for 90 minutes, checking your own hair, heat drying bedding, vacuuming furniture, boiling instruments and starting all over again 2 days later.

Seriously, it was the action of last resort.

M did not like to hear about the plan at first. There were tears. Then I reminded her about how we'd save hours a week in combing and finish this problem once and for all. She said she wanted blond hair. (Truly, I'd have said yes to pink hair at this point.) Over the walk home, our negotiations yielded tenuous agreement and a detente.

The next day, she brought her American Girl catalogue to the salon. She asked to look like Kit Kittredge:

Poor thing was itching like crazy under the plastic hair cover. All I could think was, if there's anything living on that scalp - it won't be for much longer! Then we had the moment of truth with the cut. M was very complicit having seen her fab new colour - which was not as blond as she would have made it a) because I felt that was unnecessary processing and b) because I'm not interested in Hollywood-style upkeep, nor do I think a 9 year-old should look like Marilyn Monroe unless that's the way God made her. FYI, this is her hair colour bleached 2 shades lighter - which turns out to look more strawberry than blond.

Shiny, shorn result...

That cute little face doesn't look traumatized. Don't you agree?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Trip Continues...

(This is a re-post of How to Get with The Season Without Going to the Poor House, Part 2 - from last November...)

The art of shopping will not be disputed by me. Not to be all braggy, but I actually think it is one of my great life skills. Oh, I know, it's shallow and meaningless compared with, say, helping starving people and educating children. But it is a necessary activity and one which we should aim to do intelligently - if not ecstatically. So Xmas is coming. Geese are starting to freak out. So are most men. This year, I've advised my very generous but not-given-to-gift-buying-when-the-target-holidays-occur husband that I need a little something other than a nicely wrapped computer battery. Of course, I don't need a thing. But, when everyone else is opening those gorgeous, thoughtful gifts I've lovingly sought out with just them in mind, I'd really appreciate a bit of the same.

My husband is intimidated by holiday shopping. He loathes it. He's afraid of stores. He's afraid to buy things for me because I do all the discretionary purchasing in our lives (and 90% of the rest of it) and he hasn't needed to develop the skill. Secretly, I enjoy being the boss of the shopping. But it doesn't bode well when I want a little treat. Note: Scott has given me some of the most lovely gifts I've ever received - from jewels to, ahem, electronics. He just only buys when the inspiration hits him. Otherwise it's just not his thing.

While it vaguely defeats the purpose, I feel so responsible to help him get through the challenge that I have a) presented him with a list of stores containing items I enjoy, b) spoken with a couple of key SA's who have kindly offered to guide him if he visits them and c) explicitly indicated the kind of items I like - and "need" - in various colour palettes that might be useful.

"Why don't you just go buy the things, wrap them and give him the bill?", said my mother good-naturedly. You see, she knows me. And she knows him. And trust me, I'm tempted to do it. But I have to let the little tadpole swim into the sea. It's times like these, I recognize my bourgeoisie is painful. But here's the thing. I don't want something cher. (Cher, of course, is relative and I'm obviously speaking only from my own economic perspective... What's affordable to me may be out of someone else's price range. Lord knows, much of what I see is out of mine.) I'd just like something lovely and thoughtful. One thing. And preferably it should smell, feel or fit nicely.

A propos of giving gifts - let's focus on the giving rather than the buying - you do not need to spend a lot to thrill someone you care about. To wit, here are some reliable stores for gifts at various price points:

  • Club Monaco
  • J Crew (US)
  • Holt Renfrew (Canada)
  • Ziggy's At Home (Toronto)
  • Suite 88 Chocolatier (Montreal)
  • The Gap (for Ts, jammies, kid's stuff, undies, skinny turtlenecks and scarves)
  • David's Tea (Toronto)
  • L'Occitane
  • AGO Gift Shop (Toronto) - or any good gallery gift shop
  • Chapters/Indigo (Canada) / Borders (US)
You will note that many of these are rather lovely stores, selling rather lovely merchandise. But you don't have to buy the evening gown for 15K. You can buy a lipstick from the Bobbi Brown counter and have it nicely wrapped for free. You can buy the cashmere socks or a well-designed tube of hand cream and save approximately $14,970. And here are a just a few gift options for the various people in your life.

Please remember - it's not about how much you buy or what you pay. It's about how thoughtful and sensory - and beautifully presented - your token of affection manages to be. If you wouldn't want to receive it, please don't give it:

For your kids' teacher, housekeeper, daycare staff - and anyone else who helps you to logistically function in your life:

  • Fine chocolate - the bigger the box the better.

  • Hand milled soap and body products made with fine essential oils.

  • Gift cards (Chapters, iTunes) - but only if you can't be more personal.

  • A spa treatment - but only if you know the person fairly well.

  • A book about a subject that interests the giftee.

These gifts can range in price from about $20.00 to $200.00 and up. Here are a couple I've bought for various peeps:

Savon de Marseille

For Your Mother:

  • Really the choices are endless, but how about fine leather goods (bags, wallets)

  • Lovely tea pot and cups - don't forget to include some tea.

  • Cashmere scarf

  • Unique jewelry (it comes in all price points)

  • Clothing if you are sure of her size and style

  • M0851 Bag

These gifts can get pretty pricey. But I've bought my mother some beautiful antiques, over the years, that are treasured and yet cost less than $30.00.

For the Men:

  • Wallets and other leather goods

  • Gadgets (iPhone, video games, techy stuff)

  • Hats, scarves - preferably merino or cashmere! (Remember you can find this on sale.)

  • Leather gloves

  • DVDs

  • Cologne - something you know he likes

  • Affordable crystal wine glasses

  • Riedel O Wine Glass

      These gifts can also range in price quite substantially. I just bought 4 Riedel cabernet glasses for my father, wrapped by the boutique in a fantastic tube to look like a Christmas cracker, for $40.00 all in. And they're crystal.

      For the Kiddies:

      • Books, books, books!

      • Educational toys from Chapters and the like

      • Diaries with keys

      • Webkinz

      • American Girl stuff (My daughter calls hers a Canadian Girl!). Not the least $$ on the list. So maybe leave these for the grandparents!

      • Clothing from H&M Kids, Gap and other affordable stores

      • Boots and slippers

      • Gorgeous iced cookies

      • Lip balm and hand cream - little girls love this!

      • Special outing to see a musical, ballet or special Christmas movie (or other cultural event)

      • Puzzles

      • Art SuppliesThis list really does go on and on.

      The great thing about kids is that they love anything as long as it's wrapped! The price point here is often very reasonable. You can get a nice kid gift for $10.00. Or spend a living fortune...

      Friday, November 13, 2009

      Clip Trip

      I was about to do a piece on shopping at this time of year - about staying sane and not spending too much - but then I realized it would say more or less the same thing that I wrote last November. So, I've decided to repost it now (this is a first for me): "How to Get With The Season Without Going to the Poorhouse Part 1". (Part 2 will follow.)

      You know I love to shop.

      You know I love to give gifts.

      So, it would stand to reason that winter holiday season is the most excellent time of the year for me.

      Thing is, I hate crowds. I hate shopping with the newbies and the novices (and, heaven forfend, the shoppers who shop as professionally as I do). I hate the marketing machinery which turns us all into static-charged lemmings, running headlong for the cliff of unnecessary debt.

      First rule of shopping Krissie-style (and, in case you have been wondering, Krissie is indeed my princess alter ego) is: If you really cannot afford it, really do not buy it.

      There is no mystery to this. Unless - come June - you still want to be anxiously over thinking that item you bought for someone else and will probably never have the opportunity to enjoy except via the fast-fading love rush of generosity, then put it back. I assure you, your mother will adore some other thing you can afford just as much. And your 8-year old does not need an iPod Touch.

      Right now you may be thinking this is rich advice coming from me. I'm not known for bramacharya. I am known for thrilling to the chase and reveling in the spoils of war. But my spoils are all, relatively speaking, within the realm of my financial solvency.

      I have a lot to say about Christmas buying. So much that I'm going to say it over two posts. This post, in addition to proselytizing that overwhelming debt is entirely contrary to the spirit of the season, will discuss how best to shop the stores during a time frame actually constructed to make you crazy, and therefore spend-y.

      This isn't rocket science, but it's worth repeating:

      1. Inasmuch as holidays should be a joy for those receiving, it should also be a joy to give. Joyful giving depends on you having fun from the get-go. Shopping should be flanked by lunch (to protect blood sugar) and a glass of wine (or other enjoyable treat) when it's all done. Including friends can make a potentially stressful activity more pleasant. (More hands and eyes make for more efficiency.) Unless you are one of those shoppers who must be alone to find the zen.

      2. If you shop on Saturday afternoon in mid-December you will want to slit your wrists within an hour. And that's if you have fortitude. If you're a wuss, you have 20 minutes tops. Go at lunch hour or - better still - Friday mornings. And, though it sounds ridiculous, start now.

      3. Do not imagine, unless you're buying for 3 people and/or you are extremely fortunate and kickass, that you will get it all done in one shot. Expect to shop a number of times over the span of about 6 weeks. Then you can a) carry it all home and b) take your time in reflecting about possible options and the merits of spending on any one thing.

      4. Aim to catch the pre-Xmas sales. I'm on the Club Monaco promotions-alert. When they do mid-week sales knocking 30% off the price of some cashmere scarf, I'm going to know.

      5. The more you shop, the better you fare. (Notwithstanding some sort of shopping addiction, natch.) Only experience can teach you the rhythm of shopping: sale cycles, making friends with SA's who put stuff aside for you while you consider options, turnover patterns, getting special sale opps because you are a special client etc.

      6. Make sure you can return it, whatever it is. And get gift receipts.

      7. Shop in places that wrap for free. Generally, the fancier the store, the more likely free wrap is to be available. And the more classy it will look. Of course this is not always the case. Boutiques tend to wrap for free too. Some things are the same price wherever you buy (cologne, anyone). So if you can get it at Shopper's or Holt's, choose the latter. Unless Shopper's is offering 5000 Optimum points.

      8. Keep some lovely wrapping (or gift bags) and some generic, affordable gifts on hand at work and at home. Don't go out to a holiday lunch without one stashed in your bag - just in case. (I'll go into more detail about this next post.)

      9. Though it's very challenging - this one tests me tremendously - you cannot buy one for you and one for____. The time for self-shopping is after Christmas, when you don't get that thing you desperately wanted and now it's on mega-discount. (Did I mention there's a whole other system for Boxing Day shopping. This one isn't for everyone...)

      10. And finally, though I could go on, bring a list. When 16 people are jostling you for a swipe at the same one remaining item, do you really think your brain is going to be able to remember the 15 other prezzies you're on the hunt to buy? Answer: No way.
      Please stay tuned for my next installment, wherein I will advise about what gifts are perfect for what category of giftee. Guaranteed to please!

      Thursday, November 12, 2009

      It's All Academic

      A while ago, Miss Cavendish emailed requesting a recommendation for a really good unpadded sweater bra, one that contains the evidence (as it were) while highlighting her actual - un"enhanced" - shape. I had no idea what a challenge this is for a woman of small-moderate breast size (34B, for example) until I started looking. I mean, the world is your oyster if you want something with lace and seams - but yikes on the "real", smooth look.

      Different women aim to achieve different shapes under the sweater but I'm with Miss C in desiring a seamless, lifted silhouette - one that contains the "pop out nipple" effect which many of us experience in the chilly winter. Thing is, just about every such bra for the smaller breast seems to contain some padding "enhancement" a) to give extra shape and b) to hide nipple protrusion. Giving extra shape is often a euphemism for adding the perception of a cup size to one's frame. Personally, I don't want my boobs to look any bigger than they are. I can totally understand why Miss C doesn't either.

      Y'all know I have large breasts. Padding is not something I entertain under any circumstances. And bras, as they size larger, reduce padding or kill it altogether. I recognize that padding achieves a couple of easy effects for the small bust, but if you don't want to make your breasts look a size larger and you do want to stay seamless, your options seem slim.

      What's a chic professor to do?

      I'm going to suggest a couple of possibilities (below) that may do the trick- based on my reviews of product specs or knowledge of the brands. Needless to say, I'm not an expert on this and as I've been work-fixated lately, I haven't had a chance to check out the shops and feel the goods.

      Bra Queen
      provides some excellent reviews of many bras (though I didn't find an answer to this particular conundrum there on quick inspection). But I'd also like to appeal to you - bra wearers of the world.

      Do you have a bra that provides support without a lot of padding - one that keeps the shape without augmentation? We'd really like to know.

      In the meanwhile, here are my suggested try-ons.

      Chantelle Ultra Invisible T Shirt Bra

      This brand makes good quality bras and this one seems fitted - perhaps almost teflon-coated. It's referred to as very lightly padded - looks more molded to me. Note: It doesn't fit the model well, but that doesn't mean it won't fit you.

      Fantasie Smoothing Underwired Balconette Bra

      Disclaimer: Fantasie is an excellent brand but it specializes in larger sizes. This one appears to be available in 34B (smallest size) but may be hard to find unless you order it. Also note: Couldn't find a decent photo of the beige version - which I own and which is awesome - so that's why I've posted the brown. The cups emphasize one's actual shape and hold everything beautifully in place. I have heard this bra either suits the shape of your breasts or it doesn't - because the cups are so strong (not molded, mind you, they are completely flexible) there's no give.

      Wednesday, November 11, 2009


      Spectacular, yes?

      The ginkgo leaf fan shape is particularly affecting, reminiscent to me of the cycle of enduring fragility.

      On that topic, we all owe an immeasurable debt of gratitude to the people who have fought and continue to fight for the freedoms we take for granted every day. Never mind politics or policy. Let's take a moment to consider their brave sacrifice and be grateful for the safe lives we lead.

      Monday, November 9, 2009

      Built By Kristin*

      *And Scott

      If you know anything about sewing, this effort might seem juvenile. But consider: It represents our first attempt at a) reading and cutting a pattern b) cutting out fabric c) machine sewing d) understanding the mechanics of a machine and e) interpreting sewing terminology (another freakin' language).

      And if you think I'm going to show you the inner seams you are high on drugs.

      Sunday, November 8, 2009

      Love it - But then I'm Biased aka Sewing Puns Are Endless

      FabricLand is the coolest place. Seriously. And sort of scary too.

      Nicole and I decided to get there early last Saturday - our plans thwarted by a once-in-a-decade power out in the Hudson's Bay Centre. We arrived and the place was closed. Till noon.

      While we waited we talked about sewing books and other stuff and even checked out Holt's recently raised "holiday display". Yes, Holt Renfrew had its Xmas shit out in full form on Halloween day:

      It's entirely whack, I realize.

      Brief aside: You really should check it out because the yummies (candy, tea, chocolate, coffee etc.) are entirely beautiful and special. The irritating SA stopped me from taking photos because "it's against the store's policy". I guess so is free publicity. Whatevs.

      But back to FabricLand: There used to be one on every corner. Now there is but one downtown location. I guess, in light of this, it shouldn't surprise me that it was packed to the gills (esp given the power out inconvenience) but I was shocked to find so many shoppers! And a good third of them were men?! (Really, I didn't imagine anyone sewed anymore, much less men.) Hideously, the power problem meant the store was literally 30 degrees celsius. It was torture with our winter coats and all the crap we were amassing as we browsed. Alas, we perservered.

      I'll cut to the chase, in case fabric shopping doesn't thrill you: We found a really helpful SA who spent 2 hours with us giving us pointers on everything from suitable patterns to how to iron on interfacing. She was terrific. And I got this discount card (20 bucks) that instantly saved me 3x that amount. And I bought a lot of stuff.

      I realize that it's not within everyone's means to kit out all at once, and it's certainly not in everyone's philosophy. But I really believe that it's key to being ready to learn. If I a) don't know what I'm doing and b) haven't developed skill then I really need all the help I can get, no?

      The beautiful thing is that, being so well-equipped from the excursion - I had all I required to get going on a pattern. I bought 2 - a simple a-line skirt (and denim with which to sew it) and a jersey shell (with a subdued peacock blue wool blend knit). I opted to start with the skirt, though both purported to be equally easy, because I didn't have any experience with jersey - or ANYTHING for that matter - and, as yet, I had not purchased a walking foot (a gadget to help with this kind of sewing in lieu of a serger).

      The skirt, a New Look pattern, was called "Easy 1 Hour!". It took me 15. But who's counting. I'd never sewn a stitch before I started and it took me hours to figure out my machine and do testing and read stuff and look dumbfounded at the horrendously badly-written technical directions. And then there was the time required to feel my feelings. Of inadequacy.

      At this point I have to give mega props to Scott who went through the entire adventure as a true partner. Every time I considered hurling the machine out the window, he suggested beating it with a hammer instead. :-) Seriously, he figured out all the crazy instructions and the machine and made half of the finished product.

      This process hasn't been easy, per se, but it's been so interesting and exciting I can get with the confusion. In fact, having made one skirt, I decided to start on another immediately after. Yes, the week of a huge work project-deadline, I opted to spend a night measuring and cutting a skirt for M. I want to give it to her for Xmas. The pattern is similar (from the same packet) but a diff model (in the tiniest size). Don't even get me started on pattern sizing. You know why Marilyn Monroe was a size 12 in 1960 - because that's what a freakin' size 4 is now. I've heard this countless times, but only now do I fully understand it.

      Question: I could write a post or 2 about the "best way" (i.e. my way!) to buy things to support your new sewing habit. But maybe this is less than interesting to y'all who have no intention of ever taking up sewing. Let me know. That could grate like sandpaper on a disengaged audience. Thoughts?

      Friday, November 6, 2009

      Gross Domestic Product

      I have to level with you. I never took home ec. Not a semester, not a class. I went to this rather academic school where, it was determined, skills like nutrition and sewing would only get in the way of one's running the world. Motto: Ladies pour tea. Women change the world. (Note: I'm not running the world.)

      And yet, I would have had so much more fun for the opportunity to learn these fabulous creative arts / life skills in a classroom. Don't get me wrong. I had my hands full with chemistry and calculus (which I absolutely sucked at) and French and English etc. Lord knows, I needed the time I would have spent enjoying learning how to cook on figuring out meiosis.

      But let's consider the facts: Sewing teaches spatial reasoning and three-dimensional thinking, algebra and geometry, patience, proportion - and a freakin' skill you can do something with! Nutrition / cooking is absolutely essential. As a society, we are coming to realize this while a third generation moves toward adulthood with little understanding of how to make an omelet or boil an ear of corn.

      Of course, girls and boys both need these skills. Just as it's helpful to know how to build things (the skillsets are very entwined, those who know both subjects - unlike me - will tell you). My husband has the mind of an engineer. He doesn't read the manual (though he can). He feels it takes the fun out of the process. He's not afraid to make something - to make mistakes. In his world, that's self-sufficiency. Given my background, it's unheard of. I know I've said this before: my people are outsourcers. We don't fix it. We call someone who is trained to fix it. We don't make, we buy.

      Having said this, I've discovered in my adulthood - in the years I've been with Scott - that I am a creative person in a very pragmatic sense. I build food (esp. baked goods), sentences, songs, outfits. And now - I am starting to build clothes.

      I get this. I love the feel of raw material in my hands. I love the alchemy of production. I love starting with nothing and ending with something and letting it be ok if it's not perfect, because there's always a next time. I am so glad, at this stage, to recognize that skill is five parts planning, one part patience and a little bit of luck.

      So I will show you my new project (just gotta stage some photos and this week has been insane) warts and all. But first, I'll tell you about my awesome trip to FabricLand. Coming up next post.

      Tuesday, November 3, 2009

      Who's Counting?

      Hey Peeps: I'm going to be a bit inactive blog-wise this week, not because I don't have anything to say (trust me, it's exciting times here), but because I've got a major work deadline that all happens on Friday. It's the culmination of months of work, and I'm optimistic it's all going to land well -but now the push is on.

      Let me say, though, that I will post about my fab forays into fabric/sew shopping and actually making something. Yeah, I know, it might have been prudent to wait for my many books to arrive by mail, or my sewing basics course in mid-Nov., before I started to make clothing... But I didn't say I was careful :-)

      Word to wise: My 1-hour Easy! pattern - took 15 hours.

      (And yet it was a great learning experience.) But oh, my neck and shoulders.

      Monday, November 2, 2009

      Breaking News (Ha!)

      A while ago, before I decided I seriously had to get a grip on my cooking habit for the good of my thighs, I bought Michel Roux's Eggs (companion of sorts to his recent book Pastry, which I've written about before). This book is a beautiful resource, which shows how to use eggs - chicken and then some - in endless ways, not simply in omelets and quiche but in sauce, souffle, ice cream, desserts etc.

      The photography is beyond lovely and, in true Roux fashion, the recipes are simple, elegant and clear. But impressive!

      Ever wondered about the relative sizes of all the eggs produced by all the birds you can imagine (from emu to ostrich to quail to goose)? Well then, this is the book for you.

      I'm sure I don't need to convince you that the egg is one of the most awesome and useful foods in nature. A mini universe, each egg provides complete and delicious nourishment and is useful in just about a million contexts.

      I fully intend to put this book through its paces - as soon as the holiday season comes around. I'm trying to exercise a bit of baking control for a while - though given my work stress and the move to dark, dank winter I've been finding my calories in the form of chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

      Maybe I should try eggs instead.